A single judge bench of the Delhi High Court has, in the context of a challenge to one of three awards in respect of a single contract, analysed the legal position on multiple arbitrations and multiple awards.
While noting that sections 7, 8 and 21 of the Arbitration Act envisages that disputes can be raised at different stages and that there can be multiple arbitrations in respect of a single contract, it stated that such multiplicity should be avoided. While under civil litigation the principles enshrined in Order 2 Rule 2 CPC, Section 10 CPC and Res Judicata ensure that claims of parties are adjudicated together, or if they involve overlapping issues, the subsequent suit is stayed until the decision in the first suit, in arbitral proceedings it is possible for parties to invoke arbitration as and when a dispute arises. This is bound to lead to a huge amount of confusion and could be counter-productive to the objective of speedy resolution of disputes, and should be avoided.
The Court set out the various categories of multiple arbitrations:
Referring to the Supreme Court judgement in Dolphin Drilling Ltd v ONGC, the Single Judge noted that the underlying ratio in this case is that all disputes that are in existence when the arbitration clause is invoked ought to be raised and referred at one go. It observed that
“Though there is no doubt that multiple arbitrations are permissible, it would be completely contrary to public policy to permit parties to raise claims as per their own convenience. While provisions of the CPC do not strictly apply to arbitral proceedings, the observations of the Supreme Court in Dolphin (supra) show that when an arbitration clause is invoked, all disputes which exist at the time of invocation ought to be referred and adjudicated together. It is possible that subsequent disputes may arise which may require a second reference, however, if a party does not raise claims which exist on the date of invocation, it ought not to be given another chance to raise it subsequently unless there are legally sustainable grounds. This is necessary in order to ensure that there is certainty in arbitral proceedings and the remedy of arbitration is not misused by parties. The constitution of separate arbitral tribunals is a mischief which ought to be avoided, as the intent of parties may also not be bona fide.”
The Single Judge noted that it is the settled position in law that the principles of res judicata apply to arbitral proceedings. Keeping in mind the broad principles encapsulated in Order II Rule 2 CPC, Section 10 and Section 11 of the CPC, which would by itself be inherent to the public policy of adjudication processes in India, it would be impermissible to allow claims to be raised at any stage and referred to multiple Arbitral Tribunals, sometimes resulting in multiplicity of proceedings as also contradictory awards. Thus, the Single Judge proceeded to give the following opinion /recommendations that:
In the instant case the question before the Court was whether it was permissible to read the findings of a subsequent award to decide objections against a previous award? The Court held that while hearing a petition under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, it would be incongruous to hold that a finding in a subsequent award would render the previous award illegal or contrary to law. The award would have to be tested as on the date when it was pronounced, on its own merits, and not on the basis of subsequent findings which may have been rendered by a later Arbitral Tribunal.
In an attempt to further avoid multiplicity of Tribunals and inconsistent/contradictory awards, as has arisen in the present case, the Court issued the following directions:
The Court directed that its order be sent to the Ld. Registrar General for being placed before the Chief Justice for considering if any modifications are required to be made in the Rules of the Delhi High Court framed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 and also to the Secretary, Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India and the Chairman, National Highway Authority of India.
 Decided on 23 June 2020, Coram : Pratibha Singh J.
 AIR 2010 SC 1296
 Relied on Vijay Karia & Ors v. Prysmian Cavil E Systemic SRL & Ors [Civil Appeal No 1544 of 2020, decided on 13 February 2020]
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